Living in Threes
Book View Café
November 20, 2012
Copyright © 2012 Judith Tarr
ISBN: 978 1 61138 208 2
For the real Meredith
who has waited very long and patiently
for her book to come out in the world
This book could not have existed without the help of
many friends and colleagues.
My agents, Russell Galen and Ann Behar, believed in it
enough to let it go—and to encourage me to publish it
through Book View Café.
But before that could happen, this happened: a
successful Kickstarter, a round 256 backers, and the
wherewithal to transform a manuscript into a book.
Thanks to the backers who have made it possible for
Living in Threes to make its way out into the world:
Cora Anderson, Richard Kirka, Marty Grabien,
Gwyndyn Alexander, Kari Sperring, Kathleen G. Seal,
Alan Hamilton, Robin Taylor, Marci Ellingwood, Carole
Nowicke, Ingrid Emilsson, Lisa Clark, Kit Kerr,
Meredith Tarr, Woj, Katja Kasri, Hugh Agnew,
Marianne Reddin Aldrich, Val Kondrich, Nancy
Kaminski, Kathleen Hanrahan, Robin Marwick, RJ
Nicolo, Molly Kalafut, Elizabeth Bennefeld, Michael
Gaudet, K. Case, Linda Antonsson, Frauke Moebius,
Jenny Graver, Noriko Shoji, Deborah Sumner, C.
Joshua Villines, Mary Ellen Garland, Lauri M. Weaver,
Christy Marx, Shauna Roberts, Catie Murphy,
Ruth Stuart, Adrianne Middleton, Paula
Mikkelsen, Paul “Princejvstin” Weimer, Pat
Knuth, Mary Kay Kare, Peter Aronson, Rebecca
Stefoff, Joseph Hoopman, Di, Valerie Nozick, M.
Menzies, Nancy Pimentel, Dawn Marie Pares,
Leah, Beth, SAMK, Anne Walker, April
Steenburgh, Margaret C. Thomson, Ashley with
the Morgans, M.L.K. Ondercin, Jaakko
Kangasharju, Mary Spila, Poppy Arakelian, Sarah
Patrick, Helen Wright, Paula Meengs, HY Tesler,
Patricia Burroughs, Nancy Barber, Maryanne
Stroud, Amanda Weinstein, K. Kisner, Pat Hayes,
Kate Elliott, Phil Freund, Ceffyl, Solveig, Regina A.
Tarr (hi, Mom!), Marti Wulfow Garner, Kerry
Stubbs, Amy Sheldon, Mary Caelsto, Pat Cadigan,
Christine Swendseid, Heidi Berthiaume, Sue
Wolven, Donna P., Melinda Goodin from
Australia, Kate Kirby, Cameron Harris, Ron
Chance, Alison Farrin.
You are amazing. Thank you all.
That was the absolute best and the absolute
worst summer of my life, the summer I turned
Sixteen is a weird year. Make it sixteen with
your dad off finding himself again—not that he’d
been around much even before the divorce—and
your mom in remission from ovarian cancer, and
you can pretty much figure you’re being dumped
on from somewhere.
What I didn’t figure, and couldn’t ever have
figured, was how bad it was going to get—and
how completely impossible both the bad and the
good part would be.
Magic. It’s dead, they say. Or never existed.
They aren’t looking in the places I fell into, or
finding it where I found it, that wonderful and
I had plans with the usual suspects: Cat and Rick
and Kristen. They had their licenses already, got
them before school let out. I was thisclose to
2 Living in Threes
mine, with the September birthday and being the
It was going to be our summer on wheels, when
it wasn’t on horseback or out on the beaches. We
had it all mapped out.
Then Mom dropped the bomb.
I came home from the barn early that day, the
day after the last day of school. Rick had the car,
but his dad wanted it back by noon. So we’d hit
the trails at sunup, then done our stalls and hay
and water in a hurry with him already revving up
When I got home, wringing wet and filthy and
so smelly even I could tell I’d been around a
manure pile, Mom was sitting out by the pool.
That wasn’t where she usually was on a
Thursday morning. She still had her work clothes
on, but she’d tossed off the stodgy black pumps
and splashed her feet in the water.
Her hair had all grown back since the chemo. It
was short and curly, and still a little strange, but
I liked it. I thought it made her look younger and
She turned and smiled at me. She looked tired,
part of me said, but the rest of me told that part
to shut up. “Good ride?” she asked.
“Good one,” I answered. “Bonnie only threw in
a couple of Airs. And that was because Rick was
riding Stupid, and she was living up to her name.
Bonnie had to put her in her place.”
Judith Tarr 3
As long as I was out there, I figured I’d do the
sensible thing. I dropped my shirt and riding
tights and got down to the bathing suit any sane
person wears under clothes in Florida summer,
and dived into the pool.
The water felt absolutely wonderful. Mom
watched me do a couple of laps.
Finally I gave in. I swam up beside her and
folded my arms on the tiles and floated there, and
said, “All right. Tell me.”
She was still smiling. It must be something
really good, to bring her out of court and all the
“I’ve been talking to Aunt Jessie,” she said.
“She’s staying in Egypt this summer, instead of
coming back home to Massachusetts.”
I knew that. I talked to Aunt Jessie, too. She
Skyped in at least once a week. Checking on me,
and on Mom through me.
But Mom was in story mode. I kept quiet and
let her go on.
“She’s really excited,” Mom said. “She’s made
some discoveries that she thinks are very
important, and with everything that’s been going
on over there, she hasn’t been at all sure she can
keep getting the permits. She actually got a grant,
which is just about unheard of these days.”
“She must be over the moon,” I said.
“Oh, she is.” Mom paused. “It’s a big grant. Big
4 Living in Threes
enough for a whole team.”
That came out of the way Mom was smiling—
excited, as if she had a secret and she couldn’t
wait to share. She’d been dreaming about Egypt
for years, following all of Aunt Jessie’s adventures
and reading and studying and talking about
maybe someday, if she had time, if she could get
There were always reasons not to go. First she
had to make partner in the law firm. Then she got
asked to be a judge in the county court, and that
needed her to be always on. Always perfect. And
then there was the cancer.
So maybe she figured it was now or never. I
could see that. Even get behind it. But I wasn’t
sure how I felt about it.
Mom away for the whole summer? Was she
really ready to leave me for that long? I didn’t
have my license yet. How was I going to—
All that zipped through my head between the
time I asked my question and the time Mom
answered, “Including you.”
That stopped me cold.
Mom grinned at my expression. “You really
thought it was me? I wish, but there are a couple
of big cases coming on trial, and I might be called
to the bench for another one, and—”
“You said you were going to take it easy this
summer,” I said. “We both were. What would I do
Judith Tarr 5
“Learn,” said Mom. “Explore. Be part of
“Florida is big enough for me,” I said. “What
about Bonnie? And the trip to Disney World? And
turtle watch? Turtle watch is important. The
college needs us to count those eggs. That’s big,
too. It’s real. It’s now. Not fifty million years ago.”
“Four thousand, give or take,” said Mom, “and
Disney World will keep. So will the turtles.”
“Bonnie won’t. Bonnie needs me. She just got
bred. We don’t even know if she’s pregnant yet.”
“We will tomorrow,” Mom said. “You’ve got a
week till you leave. It’s all taken care of. Visas,
everything. Aunt Jessie’s been working on it for
months. It’s her birthday present to you.”
She’d never said a word to me. Not even a hint.
“I hate surprises,” I said. “I hate her.”
“Hate me,” Mom said. “It was my idea.”
“It’s your dream. Mine is to spend the summer
with my friends and my horse. Not baking in a
desert on the other side of the world. There are
terrorists over there. Revolutionaries. Things get
blown up. People get blown up.”
“You will not get blown up,” Mom said.
I pulled myself out of the water. “I’m not going,”
Mom didn’t say anything. I grabbed a towel off
the pile on the picnic table and rubbed myself
dry, hard enough to make my skin sting, and
6 Living in Threes
marched off into the house.
For once in the history of the universe, none of
the usual suspects was answering their phone. I
barricaded myself in my room and went laptop
I surfed for horse stuff and beach stuff and
turtle stuff. Nothing whatsoever to do with Egypt.
Who cared about sand and terrorists and old
dead mummies? The only sand I wanted was
right underneath me in Florida.
When my phone whinnied at me, I almost
didn’t bother to answer it. After all, nobody could
be bothered to answer me.
But the whinny was Cat, and she had an
excuse. She’d been driving her kid brothers home
Crisis? she texted.
Big time. But with the phone in my hand and
the screen staring at me, I couldn’t manage to fit
it all into 160 characters. Tell u tonight, I said.
Still on for ice-cream run?
8:30, she answered. Rick too. Kelly’s got a date.
Normal me would have squeed and wanted to
know all about it. Crisis me punched OK. See u
then, and threw the phone on the bed.
Judith Tarr 7
Mom was still home. I could hear her rattling
around in the kitchen. Then the TV came on,
rumbling away in the background.
That was weird. I almost went to find out why
she wasn’t going back to work, but my mad was
still too new. If she thought she was going to wait
me out, she could just keep thinking it.
The computer beeped at me. The phone was
lighting up with messages. Now everybody wanted
to talk-text-email. All I felt like doing was crawling
inside a book and pulling the cover over my head.
I tried every book in my to-be-read file, and
even in my favorite-dead-tree-rereads pile, but my
eyes kept slipping away from the words. Finally I
opened my laptop instead, but I shut off the wi-fi.
It felt weird. Kind of guilty. Like telling the
whole world to eff off.
What I needed was my own words, or words
that came to me. Words that weren’t about here
or now. I needed to go away, really far away, deep
inside myself where everything was different.
Where I wasn’t even me.
I’ve always told myself stories. I started writing
them down as soon as I knew how. When I got my
first computer that was all my own, I’d found the
place where I could always go.
I wasn’t always safe there. Stories aren’t about
being safe. On the screen, where the words were,
I was home—more than I was anywhere except in
the barn or in my own house.
8 Living in Threes
A year ago, when the cancer came in, it was
scary, but then there was the remission and I told
myself that was it, we’d go on and nothing would
change. Mom wouldn’t get sick again.
But the world was different. I couldn’t trust it
The only world I could trust was the one I made
for myself. The only light was on the screen, pale
like moonlight, black like the sky between the
stars. Outside it was a steaming hot Florida
afternoon, with the sun beating down and the
thunderheads piling up. In here, it was as cold as
the truth I’d had to face, the day Mom came home
from the doctor and sat me down and told me she
was going to die.
Today wasn’t anything like that. She was just
dumping me for the summer—same as Dad used
to do, till he stopped even bothering to show up.
Just like Dad, she thought it was great. Romance!
Adventure! All the things she’d never had time to
do, so I got to do them instead.
I closed my eyes and made myself go away.
Skip over. Ignore. Forget. Be somewhere else. Be
someone else—someone as different as it was
possible to be.
This wasn’t really a new story. Pieces of it had
been in me for as long as I could remember,
fragments of words, images, half-remembered
dreams, but now it was all there: solid, whole,
and so real I could taste it.
Judith Tarr 9
Really, I could. It was bitter and salty, like a
mouthful of ocean, or too many tears. When I
opened my eyes, I was somewhere completely
I was inside the story. Instead of me telling it, it
was telling me.
What happens next?
Buy Living in Threes at Book View Cafe
Copyright & Credits
Living in Threes
Book View Café Edition November 20, 2012
Copyright © 2012 Judith Tarr
Cover illustration & interior illustration by Emily Trower
Cover design by Dave Smeds
BVC Production team:
Sherwood Smith, Julianne Lee, Vonda N. McIntyre
About the Author
Judith Tarr holds a PhD in Medieval Studies
from Yale. She is the author of over three dozen
novels and many works of short fiction. She has
been nominated for the World Fantasy Award,
and has won the Crawford Award for The Isle of
Glass and its sequels. She lives near Tucson,
Arizona, where she raises and trains Lipizzan
Other Books by Judith Tarr
The Dagger and the Cross
A Wind in Cairo
Lord of the Two Lands
The Hound and the Falcon
The Isle of Glass
The Golden Horn
The Hounds of God
Writing Horses: The Fine Art of Getting it Right
Brewing Fine Fiction
Ways to Trash Your Writing Career
Dragon Lords and Warrior Women
Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls
The Shadow Conspiracy
The Shadow Conspiracy
The Shadow Conspiracy II
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